Psalm 137 is, as previously noted, written from the perspective of those carried off into captivity in Babylon. Verses 1-6 give voice to moving and heartrending lament. Weeping grows into rage, however, and in verses 8 and 9 we encounter some of the most troubling lines in the Bible. These verses shock and terrify. What shall we do with them?
Israel has suffered severe violence and injustice. Jerusalem was reduced to rubble as Israel’s enemies looked on and mocked. The exiles weep because of the wrongs committed against them. But verses 8 and 9 show us another feeling. Here we encounter tears that flow not only from the violence others committed against Israel. These tears flow from the exiles’ own festering hurt and rage, from their own desire for retribution and vengeance.
If this desire is the source of these tears, then where should they flow? Psalm 137 tells us they flow into the very presence of God—the right place to bring our hurt and anger. What would we say if we were sitting with the writer of this psalm—the one who has seen his city demolished and has been carried off into exile? Indeed, what would we say to others who have suffered great violence? Do we say, “Get over your anger”? “Forgive and forget”? “Two wrongs don’t make a right”? No. Those who have been wronged want to cry out—and they should. But Psalm 137 tells us the appropriate place for these cries is the sanctuary of God. These tears lead us not to vengeance or denial but to the compassionate embrace of the One who judges justly.
Lord, we give you the hurt and anger we feel toward those who have wronged us. Thank you for allowing us to bring our wounded hearts into your presence. Hold us there until you have healed us. Amen.
Moving from the sadness of Lamentations 1 to the thanksgiving prayer of 2 Timothy 1 is to move from total darkness to “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abol- ished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are both painful laments from the vantage point of the exile. Both laments drama- tize the expression of honest pain, which offers to God anger as well as grief. In contrast, the New Testament texts speak of faith. The writer of the epistle delights in Timothy’s heritage of faith, nurtured by mother and grandmother and empowered by divine gifts of love and self-discipline. But it is a heritage that must put itself at risk for the sake of the gospel and not inch in the face of inevitable suffering. The disciples ask Jesus for “more” faith, only to be told that faith cannot be quanti ed.
• Read Lamentations 1:1-6. When have your tears of regret washed away illusion? How do you begin again after repen- tance?
• Read Psalm 137. Recall a time when someone angered you. How did you deal with your anger?
• Read 2 Timothy 1:1-14. The author states that when we shed tears for another person we “testify to our profound connect- edness to others.” When in your life have you shed tears for the suffering of another?
• Read Luke 17:5-10. How do you experience gratitude even as you live with the demands of the Christian life?
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